Tag Archives: Brighton

Going geek

Q1 of 2012 down, and my list of  completed ‘new somethings’ is looking quite impressive already: fitness boot camps, yoga classes, attending trendy launch parties, jewellery making, becoming an organ donor, even mentoring someone in running! Phew! It’s no wonder my posts have been getting few and far between; I’m too busy doing stuff to be writing about the stuff that I’m doing. Oops! Some balance is required in this respect I think… Anyway, it’s all been great fun and, without wanting to sound smug, not too taxing (although some of the yoga positions I’ve attempted defy gravity!). But all this was about to change. It was time to take things to a new level. It was time to engage my brain. That’s right people; I was gonna go geek.

I have the right genetic make-up to be a nerd. I’m whiter than Casper the Friendly Ghost. Dressed as a sheep. In a snowfall. Covered in talcum powder. And at the first hint of sunlight I burn redder than the sun. I can’t even sit under a 60 watt bulb without my factor 120 on. I’m as blind as a bat without my geek-chic specs on. And I was always hopeless at sport. Except running, which I’m quite good at. But that makes sense. Nerds should be adept at this, you know, from all the running away from bullies and stuff. Anyway, I digress.

Last week I made good on a threat I’d been holding in reserving for a few years, by popping along to a course of unadulterated geekery run by my friend Seb Lee-Delisle. I’ve been wanting to attend one of his courses for a while – they always sound so cool – but the content has always been way too advanced for my teeny little brain to comprehend. So when I found out he was putting together a creative JavaScript course for complete noobs, and realising this would fit in rather nicely with my ‘ new somethings’ plan, I signed up. Two birds, one stone. Nice.

I was apprehensive in the days leading up to this nerd-fest, being that my only attempts at anything vaguely like coding were the two frenetic weeks I spent teaching myself basic HTML and CSS last year, to get my website up and running. And this didn’t really give me an edge. It’d be like attending a course to learn Spanish and saying “well, I kinda know some French”. Yeah, really not very helpful. The ‘creative’ element – given top billing in the course title – was giving me the heebie-jeebies too, cos I’m about as creative as a stick. So the prospect of spending 2 days blinding tapping away at my hefty laptop, employing my patented ‘nod-and-smile’ technique every time something was said that I didn’t understand (I anticipated having a major case of neck ache and face freeze by the end of the course!) and trying to cover up my lack of creative prowess by using the brightest colours I could code up, to cause temporary blindness, was a little unnerving. But as I’m always being told, particularly by said teacher of this course, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Ok fine. I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway. Times 100! Bring it!

The dates rolled round, and suddenly here it was, Geekment Day. Or Geekment Days; it was a 2 day course after all. And what a fun couple of days it was! The class were a lovely bunch of fellow noobs from all sorts of backgrounds, all eager to learn this weird JavaScript stuff. The girls outnumbered the boys 4:1, which I hadn’t expected, and it was pretty cool to see so many girls interested in learning programming :). Day 1 kicked off with Seb showing us some basic drawing commands, and how we could use these to make shapes, dictate colours and even move stuff around the canvas! Cool! Check out some of the pretty stuff I made:

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After we had these basic commands down, and we’d stopped sniggering at the slightly rude sounding terms we’d been learning all morning –  “Now remember, it’s really important that you stroke your Rects before you fill your Rects…” (snigger) – we were tasked with creating a little critter with wobbly bits and everything! Here’s my offering: click on the bunny then watch him wobble as you move your mouse across the canvas!

Kinda cute, right? And I almost understand how I put him together, which is pretty cool!  The rest of the class made awesome creations too, from wobbly aliens to grinning faces to a hilariously rude body part. I won’t mention exactly what it was (where would be the fun in that), but will say that, when it came to Day 2 and particle systems, the owner of the anatomical graphic wasted no time in working on an eruption of particles to ‘finish off’ her work. Nuff said. Needless to say, immature as we quite clearly were, we all had to have a sneaky look at her laptop, laughed like naughty school kids and collaboratively decided that her offering won the entire course.

Day 1 completed, pretty stuffs coded by yours truly, so onto Day 2, with gusto! Well, I started with gusto. It soon petered out when Seb started schooling us in while loops and for loops and arrays… What the flip?! Queue all manner of confusion and brain-frying and frustration, admittedly mostly from my corner of the room. We were now into scary territory. The bit I’d been dreading. The moment where I’d found myself staring at my screen, fixated with wide-eyed gormlessness and not understanding even a hint of what I was looking at! Oh how I longed to go back to stroking and filling my rects. Reassuringly though, this stuff seemed to be a bit of a stumbling block for everyone. But we were lucky. Seb is an excellent teacher, and talked us through this terrifying world of unfamiliar terminology, happily answering all our “um, I may be being really dumb here, but…” questions. And it started to sink in. Well, for the others perhaps. As for me, I was still clueless! But I bluffed my way through until the afternoon, chomping at the bit for the exciting culmination of our 2 days of coding – PARTICLE SYSTEMS! Ooo particles, you’re so pretty. And so impressive looking. Shapes that appear from nowhere in an explosion of awesomeness. Aahhhhhhhh! Ones that are glued to your mouse and whizz across the screen, following your every whimsical move. Weeeeeeeee! Who knew that after such a short space of time, complete JavaScript novices could be creating such visually stunning effects. What a brilliant way to end 48 hours of nerdy wizardry :D. It’d be rude not to share some of my particle examples, so here you go. Click on the images to see them get animated…


That’s some pretty awesome stuff right there!  And after only two days. Amazing!!! So I’d like to say a huge thanks to Seb for running a brilliant course for us coding virgins. I’m always blown away by the stuff Seb does, so getting to see the mechanics of how he can create visually beautiful things with code was really eye-opening. Understanding it (for the most part anyway…) was even more amazing! But being able to type some gobbledygook that can barely count as English into the notepad, and instantly see it come to life in the canvas – wow. That was so cool it almost hurt a little. As expected, the anticipation was way more painful than the actual act, but we’ve all come away, Javascript cherries popped, feeling nicely sated thank you very much ;).

And that’s it, my first Creative JS course completed, and I’m actually feeling a little impressed with myself – yay! So am I now a fully fledged geek? Um, probably not. But this has definitely gotten me a few steps closer. And seeing as I’ve now become inseparable from my laptop, playing with the variables in my examples from dusk till dawn, I think it’d be acceptable to declare my status as nerd-in-training. I’m now the proud owner of a big orange book, which professes to be able to learn me in the ways of processing. Hmm. We’ll see… I’m still tweaking the stuff I created in class, and if any of my random changes result in something mind-blowingly gorgeous (it could happen, right?) I’ll definitely be posting them. But for now, it’s glasses on, curtains drawn, laptop launched, and brain engaged. All systems code!

Burn baby burn!

You may remember a few weeks back I spent a brilliantly fun (if rather nippy!) morning in the Ton, making this most awesomemous of lanterns for the Burning the Clocks parade, with the lovely Same Sky folks:

Ah yes, it’s all coming back to you now isn’t it.  Good.  That means I don’t have to go over everything again :).

Having successfully managed to get home safe and sound, no mean feat given the ridiculously packed streets and reliance on public transport (the husband selfishly had the car up the North), lantern and I excitedly waited for the big event.  I even made another lantern at home the day before, so the husband could join in too.  Alright, maybe it’s because I enjoyed getting all messy with the glue and stuff, but shhhhh, don’t tell anyone… 🙂

Finally the day of the parade arrived, so we bundled all our stuff in the car, and headed to the coast.  I’d been a bit keen to do other things on our mini-break to the Ton, and had booked tickets to Spamalot on the same day as the parade.  Turns out the turnaround time for the play finishing and the check in time at The Corn Exchange was tighter than I had figured, meaning the lanterns had to come with us to the theatre – oops!  Oh well, as it was, they had a very nice time thank you very much. They particularly enjoyed the bit with the cow :).

Hot footing it from the theatre, lanterns in tow, it turned out we were one of the first to arrive.  In fact, safety check central was still being set up as we rolled in all excited and babbling (ok, yes, it was just me that was like that.  Husband is much more laid back).  But this gave the super smiley Same Sky helpers a great opportunity to practice their stick distribution skills – workshop lanterns were given poles with battery-operated bulbs attached; homemade lanterns had a purist pole (no attachments needed here thank you very much).  Team Cuplet had one of each, so really it was a very carefully thought out plan.  Yeah.  That’s what it was.  It was all part of my plan… And by lovely coincidence, the next lantern holders to arrive were the family I had Cupleted at during the workshop a few weeks earlier, and we spent the rest of the parade together :).  A big well done to Pete, their four year old son, for being a proper little trooper and managing to walk almost the entire route after what was a very long evening of waiting around for someone so young.  In fact, he danced his way round the first part of the parade – what a star!

Right, I feel I’m starting to waffle on, so I’m going to let my photo’s of the evening do the talking for a bit now…

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Burning the Clocks was AWESOME!  Somehow we managed to be right at the front of the general lanterns section, tucked just behind the offerings of Brighton University – painfully talented as you can imagine.  The students that is, not us, just to clarify :). We spent the whole evening flanking an absolutely stunning Phoenix, being carried by two teeny teenage girls.  It looked bloody heavy to me, so well done to them for getting it round!  I did my bit to help them out, unwrapping sweets they had been given by other paraders and popping them in their mouths for sustenance.  I mean, lovely thought guys, giving them sweets and all, but they were carrying a huge lantern in both hands – how were they gonna unwrap sweets with their hands full, let alone eat them!?!   The parade was packed, with gorgeous glowing works of art trailing behind us as far as the eye could see.  But that was nothing compared to the thousands of people lining the streets to watch us all as we passed by, on our way down to the beach where our lanterns made their final journey to the bonfire.  What a sight it was.

It was an incredible evening, so much fun, and really quite amazing to see an entire community come together.  Well done Brighton!  And huge praise to Sharon and everyone else at Same Sky for organising such a  fantastic event; I feel so pleased to have been a part of it :).  But sadly, due to outrageous budget cuts to the tune of £90,000, Burning the Clocks may not even happen next year :(.  It’s such a shame when local community based events like this disappear into obscurity merely as a result of what people in positions of power deem to be unimportant or non-essential. If anything, being a part Burning the Clocks this year, particularly as an outsider, showed how much Brighton and Hove care about projects like this.  Certainly my home town doesn’t have anything like this, and its all the poorer for it in my opinion. Ok, I’ll get off my soap-box now (I get a little carried away sometimes, in case you hadn’t noticed), and will end with this.  Burning the Clocks was awesome!  Paraders and spectators were grinning from ear to ear, and I haven’t seen so many people having so much fun all at once for a long, long time.  I hope it’s around for many years to come :).